talk about teaming up on screen for the first time. >> i'm going to start a fire. >> from the global resources of abc news, with terry moran, cynthia mcfadden, and bill weir in new york city, this is "nightline," december 27th, 2012. good evening, i'm terry moran. this year's holiday gift giving frenzy is drawing to a close. for many of us, that means this season's spending remorse is sinking in. the average american spent an estimated $700 during the holidays this year, so tonight, we wanted to bring you an inside look at the bargain stores that could help out with your wallet rehab. abc's ryan owens brings us inside the booming business of being cheap. >> reporter: they're opening their doors faster than new starbucks. >> i like it because it's cheaper. >> reporter: there are now more dollar stores in the united states than drugstores. >> since the prices are so good, it's like why not? >> you can get more stuff for
cheaper. >> reporter: a $56 billion industry. >> i think we can double the size of our chain within this country. >> reporter: each pin on this map represents one family dollar store. howard levine is the ceo of that chain. >> tons of growth here. this is probably a thousand-store state. >> reporter: right now he oversees an empire of how many stores? >> right around 7,550. >> reporter: are you sensitive to the charge that you're the ceo of one of the cheap stores? cheap is bad? >> no, somebody called me cheap, i take that as a compliment. that means we're looking for value, we don't overpay for stuff. >> reporter: cheap is working. three dollar chains, family dollar, dollar general, and dollar tree are fortune 500 companies. another chain, 99 cents only, is
eyeing real estate on ritzy rodeo drive. >> $119.05. >> reporter: dollar stores have been expanding while the rest of the economy has been receding. >> my friends say i'm miserable, but you must love this economy, and, you know, that's not really the case. we would much prefer a strong economy. when people have jobs, they spend money. we do pretty good in tough times, but we do very well in good times as well. >> reporter: family dollar has been doing well for more than a half century. levine's father opened the first store in charlotte, north carolina, in 1959. in the beginning, family dollar sold only things that cost a buck. but they abandoned that years ago. today, roughly 90% of their products are less than $10. about a third of everything they sell is not made in america. what do you say about that, that all of this stuff comes from china? >> let's see where this jacket is made. china, look at that. you've got go where you can get the value and where they have
the workmanship and the factories to do it. you know, that's the nature of the business. >> reporter: so you're not going to apologize for that? >> no. >> reporter: so there's stuff traveling above our heads all over the place. >> yes. it's an extremely important part of our business to make sure we have a good supply chain. >> reporter: levine took us inside one of his distribution centers, a speeding array of sorting machines and suconveyer belts. there's little room for error because it's the cents that really matter. >> after taxes, if you can make five cents on every dollar you sell, the pennys are important to us. it's amazing. >> reporter: being fast and efficient are one of the secrets to their success. the winning formula begins in tiny towns, underserved communities walmart and target wouldn't give a second look. they garble up cheap real estate, empty buildings other retailers have left behind. then they hire a small work force. each store may have only two people working at a time. there's almost no advertising.
no fancy commercials. an in-store circular lists all the deals. and their final secret, a laser-like focus on the customer. >> you design the store around her. >> reporter: in fact, every other word out of president mike bloom's mouth is a single pronoun. >> we needed to get what she needs it. she's out buying what she needs. >> reporter: you keep saying she. who is she? >> 87% of our customers are women. we think about her all the time. customer, customer, customer. >> reporter: she is the noun in just about all of your sentences. >> to me it's dna. you're getting four times as much for 50 cents less. >> reporter: bloom spent three decades working for cvs. he noticed family dollar's cheap corporate culture in day one. >> i'd sit in meetings, look at presentations. i would always miss half the presentation. i was like, it doesn't make sense, because they print on two slides. it's automatic. they print on two sides.
this is brilliant. >> how are you, sir? good to see you. >> reporter: howard levine is already a millionaire many times over, but 50 years after he walked these aisles with his dad, he says he still shops here. >> this is what i bought. in fact, i'll probably sleep in these tonight. $8? i mean, unbelievable. where else can you get a value like this? >> reporter: i'm ryan owens for "nightline" in matthews, north carolina. >> the big business of being cheap. thanks to ryan for that. next up, abc's christiane amanpour goes in search of the most coveted biblical artifact of all time, the legendary ark of the covenant. [ male announcer ] you like who you are... and you learned something along the way. this is the age of knowing what you're made of. so, why let erectile dysfunction get in your way? talk to your doctor about viagra. 20 million men already have. ask if your heart is healthy enough for sex.
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as all you fans of "indiana jones" can attest, the biblical relic known as the ark of the covenant has been the obsession of fortune seekers and worshippers alike since the days of moses. the holy artifact said to hold the original ten commandments. but there's no consensus as to where it might be or even if it exists. the mystery has inspired a centuries long treasure hunt and christiane amanpour takes us in search of the lost ark. >> reporter: whispers from the past hang in the air of modern day jerusalem. yet no matter how hard you listen, the truth behind so many of these biblical stories that took place here remain so captivatively elusive. in part, because so many answers may be buried underneath what today is a living, breathing city. this woman is a biblical scholar
and a tour guide. she took us to one of the only places where archaeologists, pilgrims and tourists are allowed to explore below this storied city. it's notoriously difficult to dig under the old city of jerusalem. >> it's very difficult because it's very sensitive. we are talk about holy places of the three main religions. >> reporter: it's so politically charged. >> it is so politically charged. >> reporter: discovered by accident in the 19th century when an archaeologist was walking his dog. this massive network of caves and tunnels is known as solomon's quarries. >> he is the founding father of the free masons. >> reporter: the reminders of solomon, his temple and his destruction seem to seep from these walls. >> the name of this is the tears of the king. >> reporter: why is he crying? >> well, this was the end of the first temple period. >> reporter: tears for the destruction of the temple.
it was under zedekiah's rule that jerusalem fell to the bab loan yans and the ark of the covenant went missing from history and the pages of the bible. >> the 10th century is the last time anybody really sees it according to biblical tradition. there are other stories that maybe somebody spirited the ark out of the city just ahead of the destruction. >> reporter: many believe these underground tunnels were used to secretly transport the ark out of jerusalem, and when the bab loan yan troops took infantry of the treasured they blundered, something was missing. >> when the babalonians took all the inventory, the ark was not on the list. >> there are all sorts of possibilities as to where it ended up. >> reporter: one was that the ark was taken from jerusalem to egypt. >> that's where indiana jones
goes and looks for it. we're told that an egyptian pharaoh may have attacked jerusalem just after the time of solomon. there is one theory that he took away the ark of the covenant. >> they may have tookaken the a. >> reporter: the evidence is underwe underwelming. back in the caves below jerusalem, we encounter another possibility that as jerusalem fell, the ark was not taken away, but was instead hidden away in this underground labyrinth. are people trying to be detectives? are they trying to uncover something? >> well, some people prefer to leave it as it is and some people still look and want to find the ark of the covenant.
>> reporter: today the idea of the ark transcends time and faith, like so many of the biblical stories, it inspires the simple, yet universal search for meaning. i'm christiane amanpour for "nightline" in jerusalem. >> you can see much more on "back to the beginning with christiane amanpour" tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. here on abc. just ahead, we've got a match made in comedy heaven tonight. bette midler and billy crystal talk about starring together in a brand-new film. ♪ you are my sunshine, my only sunshine ♪
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they cut their teeth together on nosh's comedy circuit and they both skyrocketed to hollywood fame, and now three decades after they met, bette midler and billy crystal are joining forces tonsil von the silver screen for the first time. they talk about going from old friends to new co-stars. >> when we would be shooting and we'd have a little lull, and bette would have her back to me, i would do this. oh, ms. stanwick. [ laughter ] >> reporter: we met up with bette midler and billy crystal to talk about their new film "parental guidance."
>> i was surprised when i read that you had never worked together before. >> you had meg ryan, what did you need with me? >> oh god. oh. >> reporter: hard to believe it was more than two decades ago when "harry met sally." >> i'll have what she's having. >> reporter: and nearly ten years before that whenned miler made her motion picture debut. ♪ >> reporter: of course, the two have gone on to make us laugh year after year. he was mr. saturday night. >> we were just trying to get back at our ex-husbands. >> reporter: she started a first wives club. >> you have to pay. >> reporter: they are two stars whose stars never crossed -- until now. >> it was a thrill that you offered me the gig. >> well, there was no one else.
>> reporter: that's sweet. do you mean that? >> everybody else didn't make sense with me. >> reporter: oh, come on, meryl turned you down. face it. >> all right. >> we're back. did you have fun with the boys? look at this place! we're going to have to call fema. >> reporter: the film also stars three adorable kids and marisa tomei as their uptight mother. but this one isn't just about the laughs. >> well, as the great yogi berra once said, it ain't over till it's over. >> reporter: crystal plays artie, a minor league baseball announcer. >> i love this job. i'm fired? >> he's just lost his job. what is he going to do with himself? he passes this on to the young grandson who then does it. >> don't tell the end. what's wrong with you? >> you can cut that part out. who then finds himself. >> spoiler alert, spoiler
. >> reporter:ed my -- midler plays his protector. so you're not a grandmother yet. >> no, my goodness. i've forbidden my daughter to become pregnant. until i'm ready. >> reporter: and you have four? >> four in march. 3, 9, 6, and another one is coming in march. >> reporter: the film was an idea hatched up by crystal from an experience with his wife. >> there was a moment when i was coloring in the coloring book. that happened to me with dylan. she was 4 at the time. and i finished my menu. >> honey, draw what your imagination tells you. >> i said what's the point of having lines? i got the elbow from jasmine, said what's the matter with you? >> that's beautiful. it's very avant-garde. >> there aren't winners and losers, we all just want to play. that plays itself out in the
baseball. >> there are no outs in this game. >> no outs? how is that possible? >> they hit until they get on base. >> seriously? >> they stay up until they get a hit. every game ends in a tie. and artie can't take it. >> you are out. >> no, i'm not. >> oh, yeah. turner, you struck him out. >> no, i didn't. >> three strikes you're out. oh! well, it's not boring anymore. >> i think the new way of raising kids has some really good things about it. and i think no abuse, no beating, no saying you'll never amount to anything. all that is -- i'm glad a lot of that is gone. i am. but on the other hand, everybody is the same, you know, everyone is equal. everyone is equal to a degree. but some people have a lot more talent than others. do you know what i'm saying? >> reporter: before you brush off their parent parent, consider this. we did some research about the two of you. do you know that the two of you share something that's very uncommon in hollywood?
>> no, what is that? >> reporter: long marriages. >> long marriages. >> reporter: it's fascinating. >> it is fascinating. we're swapping next week. >> 43 years in june. >> 28. >> so 71 years of marriage here. >> reporter: what's good about getting older? >> not a damn thing. >> reporter: do you feel smarter? >> i do. i feel like i know a lot more. >> i worried a lot. i was so anxious. terribly, terribly anxious. now i'm not anxious anymore. because a lot of it's behind me. >> you know what grandparenting is? a second chance. >> reporter: their new movie reminds us there's still a lot to come from bette and billy. >> i loved getting a chance to make this. i appreciate everything that i do a lot better than i did when i was 40. >> reporter: you take nothing for granted. >> you sound like a happy man. >> getting there. i'm getting there. >> "parental guidance" opened this week. thanks to cynthia for that and thank you for watching abc news. we hope you check in "good morning america." they're working while you're
sleeping. we're always online at abcnews.com. jimmy kimmel is up next and we'll see you here tomorrow. >> dicky: up next on "jimmy kimmel live" -- >> jimmy: there's no wrong way to spell it. i think even chewbacca is acceptable. >> dicky: ted danson. >> jimmy: you we're your handsome men's club tie. you got punched by a hooker? >> yeah. >> what did she say?